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The Bill Harrison Assessment Service: Giving Parents Clarity

The Bill Harrison Assessment Service in Ottershaw, Surrey offers multi-disciplinary assessment for children with communication difficulties. Assessment Centre Manager Sarah Billingham outlines the impact the centre has had on children with speech and language communication needs (SLCN). 

The assessment service is accessed by families from a wide geographical area, many of whom have children with undiagnosed developmental delays or identified needs which are not being met.

Many of the families talk about their frustrations with the local support systems in their area, where they may be experiencing limited access to specialist support, long waiting times and little advice on how to help their child to access appropriate provisions.

For some the system is baffling. They realise they need to advocate on behalf of their child but this can be overwhelming and without clear guidance parents can be left feeling rudderless. Families want to make informed decisions about statutory assessment processes. This is information that should be included in an Education, Health and Care Plan; the kind of provision their child needs and to feel confident when putting forward their parental preference for a school.

The assessment team includes a speech and language therapist, an educational psychologist and a specialist teacher. The team work together to build a profile of the child’s strengths and areas of need to ascertain the child’s primary barriers to learning.

By working together, the specific expertise of each professional informs the assessment of the others. This allows for a more holistic view of the child’s needs and considers how one barrier to learning may impact other areas of a child’s functioning in an education context. The team use a range of assessment tools including formal standardised assessment and informal observation methods to identify a profile of need in the following areas:

  • Social interaction with adults and children
  • Play skills
  • Speech, language and communication skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • Learning and academic skills
  • Physical and sensory skills

The Assessment Team make clear recommendations about the type of school provision the child requires, the amount of specialist support needed and specific strategies and programmes which may enable the child to access the curriculum and make good progress in school.

The impact of an in depth multi-disciplinary assessment can be seen in a variety of ways including:

  • Parents have a clear understanding of their child’s educational needs. Previously they may have had specific advice or information from individual professionals. The assessment team help to put the pieces of the jigsaw together to give a holistic view of the needs
  • Evidence provided by the professional reports and recommendations help parents to articulate how their child could be best supported in school. This evidence supports parents in accessing appropriate provision for their child.

Resources in SEND services are overstretched and families report that they are difficult to access. Access to services seems to be hugely variable, not just a ‘postcode lottery’ i.e. from area to area but also from one individual case to another. Much of the process is driven by the parents themselves. It is therefore vital that parents feel equipped and enabled to navigate the system backed by strong evidence and clear guidance from experienced professionals.

If you would like to contact the Bill Harrison Assessment Centre and want more information, phone 01932 872302 or send an email to;